Archive for December, 2009

Surprising Cirrus Stats

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

By Dave Hirschman

Cirrus owner and pilot Rick Beach has compiled a storehouse of knowledge about SR20/SR22 accidents during years of thoughtful inquiry – and his conclusions about what causes the accidents, and how to avoid them, are at times surprising and of great potential value to all general aviation pilots.

In a comprehensive report published in current issue of Cirrus Pilot, the membership magazine for the Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association (COPA), Beach debunks a few Cirrus myths and makes some compelling suggestions for improving overall flight safety in the future.

The most surprising fact that Beach’s intellectually rigorous study uncovers is that low-time pilots aren’t the problem. In fact, relatively high-time pilots with instrument, commercial, and/or instructor ratings are responsible for about 75 percent of the fatal Cirrus accidents in which pilot ratings were available.

“Only two pilots in a Cirrus fatal accident had less than 150 hours total time,” Beach said. “One of them was (the late New York Yankees pitcher) Cory Lidle, who had an instructor in the right seat during the accident.” (The other took place off the coast of France under unknown conditions.) Pilots with more than 400 hours total time accounted for 33 of 44 fatal Cirrus accidents where pilot experience was reported.

No one familiar with aviation accident history would be surprised to find that pilot error accounted for a majority of Cirrus accidents – but the percentage of fatal pilot mistakes is overwhelming in the Cirrus fleet. (Cirrus delivered the first production SR20 in 1999.)

“All but one of the 37 probable causes determined by NTSB accident investigations lists pilot causes,” Beach found. Adverse weather was a factor in most Cirrus accidents, and weather-related accidents are most common in the October-through-March time frame.

It stands to reason that pilots who seek to constantly upgrade their skills are safer – but the degree to which that’s true in the Cirrus community is astonishing. According to Beach, “Pilots who do not participate in COPA safety activities are four times more likely to have a fatal accident.”

Part of the reason active COPA members have a better record is that they are more likely to use the airframe parachutes that all Cirrus aircraft carry as standard equipment. There have been 20 parachute deployments in Cirrus aircraft in the last decade, and 17 of them were successful in saving the lives of 35 people aboard those airplanes.

During the same period, there were 55 fatal Cirrus accidents where the airframe parachute wasn’t deployed. In examining those scenarios, Beach estimates more than half (30) had “a high or good probability of success if the pilot would have pulled the (parachute) handle.”

Beach’s advice in a nutshell is to actively seek out more high-quality flight training, keep learning, and don’t hesitate to pull the parachute in an emergency (assuming the airplane you’re flying has one).

Beach’s report is available online at the following Web address: http://www.cirruspilots.org/content/FreeSafetyIssue.aspx

Check out the Miramar Air Show

Saturday, December 5th, 2009

We’ve got a fun video featuring the great Sean D. Tucker at the Miramar Air Show in San Diego earlier this year. It was produced by Oceans Aloft, a company run by pilots Natasha Stenbock and Eddie Kisfaludy of San Diego. They are friends of AOPA, having helped us with an aerial photo platform for my January article on the Cessna SkyCatcher. (They are also getting married.) Natasha has experience as a television reporter while Eddie is an ocean researcher with considerable video editing skills. Enjoy.

GA serves America in unique ways

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

Chances are you’ve noticed our GA Serves America campaign. At least, we hope you have. Clearly pilots know the value of aviation to communities around the country from an access standpoint, but how many of us trumpet the j word? You know, jobs.

General aviation contributes 1.3 million jobs in this country, which is astounding when you consider the relatively few number of pilots and aircraft. But I wonder how much that number extends out to secondary and tiertary levels.

As a product tester I get lost of unique and funky products in the office on a regular basis. A recent one called Glovelite got my attention for being particularly creative. And it’s creator and leader is a creative guy. Besides the value of the product itself, founder Paul Smith is also very aware of how his product is helping to give work to small businesses around his region.

Directly as a result of creating this one unique product, Smith has engaged publishers, a Web manager, a computer equipment company, an advertising/marketing consultant, a patent attorney, a lawyer, an accountant, the local printing shop, a label maker, a Neoprene supply company, a lining material supply company, a sewing resource, and the local UPS office. And this was all before the product even got much visibility. He also exhibited at AOPA Aviation Summit, helping to employ union workers in Tampa, people who service his airplane, the hotel, AOPA, etc.

It’s astounding when you think about it. Smith is just one example of thousands of aviation products and services out there creating jobs in a tough economy. So remember that GA serves America even when we’re parked on the ramp.